Opinion: What My Father Taught Me (T-R-Y)

This March feels like a year of karmic retribution.

I see the world unraveling around the writhing mass of humanity’s mistakes: the plight in Gaza where millions face famine and destruction due to the actions of a few; preternatural spring continuing to weave its spell through parts of the country with atmospheric rivers delivering torrential flooding in California, the warmest meteorological winter in Minnesota, and the record breaking Smokehouse Creek Fire in Texas and Oklahoma; our justice system failing us, our democratic structures wavering before our eyes.

When disasters come from all sides, where can we turn? Where do we direct our best efforts, and where can we find solace?

These are the answers I seek. At a time when questions are many, when words can no longer contain my shock and disbelief at events once believed impossible, I think of my father’s advice from years ago: T-R-Y.

It was a post-script to a birthday card where he had written in his gorgeous Palmer Method handwriting the script from Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If.” He wrote: “Remember, try. T-R-Y” after the last line.

Palmer Method A. N. Plamer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


As individuals, each of us has our own gifts, our own strengths, and our own ability to analyze how best to contribute to some situation.

The trick is knowing when to step in and when to simply let time help to unravel the yarn. I learned this lesson from my great-aunt Mamie, who in her youth ran booze during Prohibition and later crocheted blankets. She taught me to crochet as a simple and meditative practice.

Our current societal unraveling reminds me of projects that require patience to repair a dropped stitch or to complete a pattern that pleases the eye.

Crocheted Blanket Sudzie, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


I learned a similar lesson from my father. He rode with change as a Black man living through the time of Jim Crow. He participated in the 1963 March on Washington with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as the 1995  Million Man March, which highlighted the continued advocacy for  civil and economic rights.

For most African Americans, the full right to vote came 60 years ago, at the hands of a Southern Democrat, President Lyndon B. Johnson, who would wheel and deal his way to victory in memory of his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, Jr . The turbulence of the 1960s is remembered for losses by assassination, the success of the NASA space program, and the rise of counterculture with Woodstock.

March on Washington Center for Jewish History, NYC, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Though the loss of John F. Kennedy, Jr, our 35th US President, gained the successful passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, many of the gains felt during the 1960s, 1970s, and even the early 1980s have been on the decline in recent decades. In the words of Paul Simon: “the more you near your destination, the more you’re slip slidin’ away.” While Simon may not have been speaking specifically about the domestic turbulence and racial inequities of the 1960s, the line increasingly applies.

Whether in terms of voting, housing instability, or economic inequality, as a nation, we are sliding back to time when the divide between the haves and the have nots were more than just words on a piece of paper. The invisible cultural, racial, and economic divides of the 1960s have rebounded with deadly effect in the 2020s. What progress promised and began to deliver, reality has taken away.

We are not in a post-racial America. We are in a divided nation. Eruptions increased along economic and political lines with new fissures surrounding values. We, in the United States of America, consider ourselves a democracy. We are taught that Democracy (big-D) and democracy (small-d) are essential for our country’s very survival.

In reality, our view of “democracy” (small -d) is a federal republic: we vote for our representatives in local elections for mayor, state elections for governor, and federal elections for Congress and President. We have a system of checks and balances in the three branches: legislative, judicial, and executive.  We presume that the triangle of checks and balances will keep things on an even keel, just as we teach our children that wrongs will be caught and punished, while rights will be upheld and rewarded.

The weave of our country is showing its holes, as recent decades reveal the unraveling of the very fabric that we take for granted. As our country traverses these problems, our identity as a nation, a united set of peoples unravels with no clear pattern to patch the holes and crochet the pieces back together.  Our political divisions where the nature of “Truth” (large-T) and “truth” (small-t) are dissolving before our eyes are at a crisis point where renewal remains possible, and reestablishment can be found, but only with efforts.

We are a country in hiding, as our political views, our economic views, and our friendships are curated by what we see, feel, and acknowledge as Truth (large-T).  This is difficult because the Truth (large-T) requires Trust (large-T), which is currently in short supply.

The more we close ourselves off with others who look, think, appear, speak, and live like us, the more we fracture the essence of what is supposed to be the acknowledged democratic Federal Republic of the United States of America.

Although my father is no longer alive, the word he instilled to never forget during times of hardship and trouble remains T-R-Y.

We can only try to rebuild ourselves, our foundational base, and our country. As Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists, we may find it convenient and safe to surround ourselves with those who are like us, out of genuine fear for our safety. This is not only a valid concern, but one that links all marginalized communities residing in the United States, and indeed, in the world.

Our current state demands that we address the karmic retribution that we see in the world today by undressing, by taking off the cloak that we use to hide our democracy. The most vital gift and responsibility we have lies in our voice.


Public domain

We are not a river of the “inevitable” where we look at polls and decide that any given election is over or that we are going to stay home.

The fractures in our society compel all citizens to act.  This goes triple for those in our communities – Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist.  If you are eligible, plan now. As citizens, you may find yourself triggered by the many voices.

Counteract the chatter through action.  Do your own research for topics that interest you.

Read widely. Get your news from several sources to avoid falling into the trap of remaining in a silo.  Force yourself to not use TikTok other varieties of social media as your primary news source.  Go to a school board meeting, even if you don’t have a child. You are there to listen and learn what is being taught or not taught to the children of the current generation. This will help you the unraveling.

What I know to be true is that unity comes from effort, but the willingness to try is what sparks the magic. We do not have to fall apart as the yarn lies at our feet in tangles. With the spark of magic, we strengthen our craft, our nation, and our foundational base that will lead us into the future. There is wisdom in the coming spring when we advocate for continuity, consistency, and communication.  Continuity of purpose begins the rebuilding process. Consistency in action allows us to drop the lens of distortion that clouds our vision.  Communication cements the foundation that will lead to healing.

If nothing else, T-R-Y.


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